What is your favorite tool to get yourself unstuck? Do you have a repertoire of contemplative practices which help you get aligned to your true nature? Comment below:
Tears quietly dropped from beneath my glasses and onto my cheeks as we crossed the bridge making our way to his funeral. What is this life all about? I could not imagine our family without him, the person who was the constant, the person that I could rely upon. I could count on Brendan always for compassion, a good laugh, a great story. I knew he would SEE me and HEAR me. He had no where to go. He had been confined to a wheelchair for many years. He had time, all the time in the world to listen and to connect, while we were running around with our busy lives. I wish I had sat with him more. At every family gathering I would spend some of my time sitting with my beloved brother-in-law sharing stories, But that won’t happen anymore. His chair can never be filled by another.
I wondered about writings of his that may be found on his computer that I have not yet seen, writings that would give me more of him, now that he was gone. Now that I could not listen to his stories with my own ears, I wanted to read them with my own eyes. Funny, we are all here temporarily, and we all know that, but mostly, we pretend it’s not so. We are taught to savor the moments, but, we are too busy. Yet, when someone we love dearly dies, the reality of the impermanence is a lived experience, not just some inspirational quote to tattoo on our arm. The loss is felt in our bones and we ache. We want to hold onto our loved one that is no longer physically here with us. We look at pictures. We reminisce. We tell stories. We grasp for something. We wonder “what is life all about?”
Brendan was a storyteller. He would start off telling you a story with something like “Get a load of this…” and he would lean forward and wet his lips and before he even said the first word, anticipation was stirred. He would look around to see if anyone else was listening as if what he was going to tell me should not be heard by anyone else. I would position myself to listen (Brendan never told a story quickly) and I would hang on to every word. I remember political talks we had forty years ago prior to the first time I voted. I am a Democrat partly because of Brendan. I am a writer partly because of Brendan. He encouraged stories to be written. He was a person who, if you spent any amount of time with, you were changed by. He reveled in listening to stories, as well. He never spoke about anyone badly. And whenever you would be complaining to him about someone or something, he would say “You’ve gotta be shitting me!” It was his brand of acknowledging and validating. And I loved it.
It’s three days after his funeral. I am back to work but having difficulty focusing. I am still wondering as one does “What is this life all about?” This I know for sure: Brendan will live on in our hearts and minds. He will live on especially in his children and grandchildren. I know I want to be a better person because of him. As the priest noted at his funeral, based on the amount of people who showed up and the sentiments they expressed, Brendan was a very rich man. I could not agree more!
I am remembering our last couple of visits. There is something to be said about hospice. It makes you wake up to the reality of life, the impermanence of it all. You take the time to visit. You don’t put it off till next time. The visit I had in December was one I never want to forget. I walked into his room where he was in bed. Brendan’s eyes were closed. I quietly said his name and he opened his eyes and took my face in both his hands. He told me that he was just thinking about me and how much love I brought to his life and how he felt so loved by my four children. I told him how loved I felt by him. I told him how much we all adored him. It was quite a moment with tears filling our eyes. We knew these were words that were yearning to be said and heard. Ohhhhh, that is what it is all about…..love and appreciation. That is what it is all about!
Until, we meet again, dear brother!
Brendan Loonam…teacher, writer, son, father, grandpa, husband, brother, brother-in-law, son-in-law, uncle, friend, lover of poetry and music, Irishman, Bronx boy, playwright and producer of “Gone Away with a Sailor”, and a gem of a human being.
What do you desire to create in 2019?
I usually get pensive at the end of the year. This year is no exception. I have been pondering my life and want to expand my meditation practice from the cushion into the rest of my day more intentionally….REALLY noticing what is going on inside me and around me. Being aware of who I really am and who you really are, at our innermost core. Accepting all that is and at the same time reaching for better. Letting the moments sink in. Savoring more than chocolate. Relishing sunsets and smiles, moments of grace, strangers that hold doors, deer that show up in my backyard, the first sip of coffee, invitations. Taking it all in, just like a deep breath, and letting it all go as satisfying as the long release of an exhale, not getting attached to any one outcome. Allowing and making space for all the emotions that visit during the day, my internal weather map…trusting that stormy, intense emotions have their purpose, just like the rain on parched grass. It all shows up for a reason. Sometimes it is just to inform us and sometimes it prompts us to question. What is missing in our life? What is the unmet need? Where are we out of alignment? Finding that anchor spot, that grounding cord in the midst of the tornados keeping us from reactivity, from regret. Remembering to breathe, to connect, and especially recalling that we are all ONE. Pausing. Noticing who is excluded from the rooms I am in? What is the part I play? How can I do better? Nothing is broken, but everything is influenced and co-created in every moment. Each moment is a chance for renewal, to reach for improvement, to act and speak from a place of love. My most pressing aspiration for the New Year is to actualize these concepts each and every day that I am blessed with another chance to do so, and when I fail, to love myself anyway. What are you reaching for as you enter 2019? I would love to hear from you.
Here are some wishes for the New Year for myself, for you, for All Beings.
May I pause and notice, accept and savor, love and flourish.
May you pause and notice, accept and savor, love and flourish.
May all beings pause and notice, accept and savor, love and flourish.
Happy NEW YEAR!
This blog was started in 2012 to share my thoughts about well-being/wellness. Although I have never tackled the issue of hunger, I think we can all agree that well-being cannot be achieved if hunger or food insecurity is an issue. My daughter Sarah was introduced to the concept of food insecurity when she was in 4th grade by PJ Collins, the founder of 10,000 PB&Js. It made an impact but took some time to sink in as you will read below. As a girl scout cadette, Sarah decided to tackle the problem of food insecurity as part of a Silver award project. She is now 13 years old and has worked on this project for the last 18 months. I have invited Sarah to be my guest blogger this month. The purpose of sharing her story is to educate and inspire others to solve hunger one garden at a time!
Girl Scout Silver Award Project
My name is Sarah Sandor, I live in a small town in Westchester County, New York called Pleasantville. When I was in the 4th grade a man named PJ Collins came in to talk to my class about homelessness in New York City. At that time I really didn’t understand what was going on in the world with hunger and poverty. He had us make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the homeless. We put them in paper bags and he collected them. After that I told my mom what we did that day and she went to our Girl Scout troop and presented the idea to volunteer on Sunday nights. During the past couple of years, our troop would volunteer with 10,000 PB&Js once in a while but I really didn’t understand how this affected us. I enjoyed volunteering anyway. It was fun!
Two years ago, my mom told me about one of my friends who was volunteering in a food garden in my town. I thought this was strange; my mom always bought our vegetables at the local farmers market and a grocery store so I really didn’t know about local gardens. She insisted I volunteer with my friend and that started my work at the Pleasantville Community garden.
When I first met David Juros, he told me about how his son learned all about hunger in Westchester and started a garden in order to donate to Westchester food pantry (Hillside Food Outreach). I started my work for him helping with harvesting and planting.
David Juros came to Girl Scout events and my best friend and I really felt passionate about the work he does. We learned how to seed in the winter to get plants ready for spring.
Over time, I started realizing how much hunger is present in our otherwise affluent community and that it is swept under the rug and not talked about. My partner and I decided to focus our Girl Scout Silver Award project on spreading the word about hunger in our area and volunteering our time to help get fresh food to people who need it. Along the way, I got to connect with people that came to know firsthand about hunger and poverty and how one simple garden can impact the lives of families all over Westchester and how gardens with fresh foods and vegetables are in such need. I loved meeting with fantastic women like Susan Rubin who works at the Mt. Kisco Elementary School where 75% of the school is eligible for free lunch, and Jaime Posa who was my advisor.
I enjoyed working with great people like PJ Collins and David Juros who changed my life for the better. I volunteered at the Pleasantville Community Garden, and we hosted a yoga event for HIllside Food Outreach, and we did many presentations.
I learned how people take things for granted every day and how much families struggle and we don’t know about it. One in five people in Westchester experience food insecurity. I am so happy I was able to dedicate 50 hours to this important cause. And I’m so happy that I can pass on the journey I went on to other girls like me. There are many organizations that need volunteers and donations. The links are below. I also want to encourage other school systems and communities to build their own gardens to solve the hunger problem in Westchester. Let’s GROW food!
8/3/18--I had surgery three days ago. Thankfully, it was nothing serious. Nevertheless, it had me thinking about my mortality. As a nurse, I have seen a lot of death. I have lost several friends, my father, aunts and uncles and cousins. I know I am not alone.
Death is part of life and yet, we don’t talk about it. It is viewed as morbid to discuss. We go around in denial of our impermanence. Today is a gift and tomorrow is not promised.
We procrastinate because of our lack of awareness of our own mortality. We fail to take the vacation that we have dreamt about. We haven’t called our childhood friend who keeps coming into our mind. One day, we will get around to making those scrapbooks or writing that book, maybe.
I know this, because I am talking about myself. I bought the scrapbooks about 4 years ago and they are still on the shelf. I have not called my childhood friend that I have been meaning to for months. I have not gone on the vacation that I have dreamt about. I AM writing the book; well, the introduction is done.
8 a.m. This morning, I meditated. Birds were chirping. The grass was wet from rain. Mother Nature is always in flux. So am I. After my meditation, I decided to journal about what my plans would be today if it were my last day. If this were to be my last day, I doubt I I could make it to the far-off places I hope to travel to someday. But I could make some phone calls and connect to those I love. Would I worry about my “things”? Would I worry that I had not reached some lofty career goals? Nah. I wonder if I had served others well. Have I impacted the world in a positive or a negative way? These are the thoughts that cross my mind. What if these questions would motivate each and every day I have left?
I launched some intentions to live today as if it were my one and only. I made a bucket list for the day, written below. I didn’t have time for perfection. Nothing fancy…just my stream of consciousness. This is what flowed out:
What if every day we started out with gratitude for this precious gift of another twenty-four hours and considered the possibility that it may be our last? How would our life change with this new awareness and attitude? I set about my day with these things in mind.
8 p.m. My day was one of connection. I let people know I love them. I ate slower than usual. I worked. I made several mental notes of appreciation throughout the day. It was not perfect. I was not perfect, but I do not need to be. I strive to be my best self. I was honest. I was affectionate. I was allowing. I prayed. I meditated and I journaled my message to leave behind. My message contains some thoughts, nothing original, just thoughts that have become my truth. My teachers have been Wayne Dyer, Neale Donald Walsh, Marianne Williamson, Abraham Hicks, Brene Brown, Deepak Chopra among others. You may notice their messages in my love note to the world:
Dear Humans (Children),
- Don’t take yourself so seriously! Develop a sense of humor that will sustain you during the challenging times.
- Heal your shadows. Hurt people hurt people, so work on not being a hurt person.
- Your most important work is to get aligned with the energy that creates worlds and then let your actions ripple out to everything and everyone from that place of alignment.
- You are a unique expression of that divine energy that runs through everyone. Don’t be afraid to let your light shine. Claim your place in the world.
- Every moment is a chance to start anew. Forgive yourself. Forgive others. Forgive me, please.
- Lead with compassion. If that is difficult, consider this possibility: everyone (including yourself) is doing the best they can given the circumstances, conditioning and resources at their disposal.
- Acceptance is the answer to all your problems today.
- Stay where your feet are. This present moment is precious. If staying aware of the present moment seems impossible, practice mindfulness meditation. It will help. I promise.
- The Universe is always conspiring for your benefit.
- There IS enough.
- We are all ONE.
- Love is all there is at the end of the day. Choose Love. How do you do that? Appreciate everything and everyone. Appreciation and Love are the same vibration. If you are loving someone, you are appreciating them….not judging them and not fixing them.
Wishing you a life aligned with your truth and allowing your inner light to shine brightly!
Before I go, I am praying this is really not my last day on this beautiful earth. I have some phone calls to make. I have a book to write. I have some scrapbooks to fill. I have people to see. I have chocolate ice cream to sample. I have many more moments to be enjoyed….Broadway, Cape Cod, Italy, future grandchildren…one can only hope!
Love ALL WAYS,
Holidays are touchstones in our lives which cause us to reflect and celebrate. As another Mother’s Day rolls around, I am doing my fair share of reflecting and feeling. Motherhood was my biggest aspiration in life. This aspiration was not fulfilled just by the act of giving birth. Childbirth is certainly an awesome miracle. However, my aspiration to become a mother was grounded in the anticipation of the mother-child relationship and how that connection was going to shape my life and give it meaning. Before I became a mother, I thought that connection was going to be easy breezy. Once I became a mother and experienced the exhaustion of being devoted to another person’s wellbeing 24/7, I realized how naive my expectations were. Still, I persevered as best I could with the tools I had. Today, my feelings consist of gratitude for being a mother, sorrow for missed opportunities, self-compassion for falling short at times, and immense love for my children. I am feeling deep compassion for all mothers. I have witnessed a lot of parental struggle and angst recently. As one woman stated this week “We are only as happy as our least happy child”, I pondered the truth contained in these words. I think there is something universal in this idea and at the same time, I think we can create space for a different possibility, the possibility that we can remain anchored even when our children are being tossed around in the waves of life. It is something I have been intentionally working on. My intention is to stay neutral so that I can be a container for whatever my children show up with. Mind you, I certainly have not arrived at this serene place where I stay completely calm and neutral when my children are struggling, at least not right away. I go to the familiar place of fear and then remember to BREATHE and then I remind myself that the UNIVERSE is always conspiring for our benefit and that includes my children. And then I sigh, the sigh of a mother, the sigh that lets go and doubts and hopes and lets go again, before arriving at a place of acceptance….a place of equanimity….before arriving home, anchored and knowing all is well.
The gift I wish to give all mothers again this year, including myself, is the gift of loving kindness. Loving kindness meditation is one of my favorite practices. It is a meditation where we send warmth and kindness to others and to one’s self. It is a beautiful way of cultivating compassion. It is also the antidote to fear. But, don’t take my word for it. Try if for yourself. In this meditation, I sit comfortably, close my eyes and place my hand over my heart. I first send loving kindness to myself, because first things first. Next, I bring a particular person or group of people to mind and send them loving kindness. If a child of mine is going through something difficult, I make sure I am sending them these wishes. I do this by repeating 5 phrases silently. Here are the set of phrases I mentally direct to the person(s) I am thinking about:
May you be well, healthy and strong.
May you be happy.
May you experience peace.
May you feel safe and secure.
May you feel loved and supported.
And at the end, I visualize all the loving kindness that I sent out to others as coming back to me and I repeat the 5 phrases for myself, once again. I do this part because I believe that whatever you send out in the world comes back to us. Yes, it is a kind of boomerang, the Law of Attraction in action.
This year for Mother’s Day, my loving kindness meditation is directed to ALL mothers…to mothers who try their best yet never feel good enough, to mothers who lost a child, to mothers who are estranged from a child, to mothers who have a child in prison or rehab, to mothers who have given their child up for adoption, to the mothers who have adopted those children, to mothers who never saw the face of their child, to mothers who are mothers and fathers, to mothers of four-legged children, to mothers who feel isolated, to mothers who wish they could have 5 minutes alone, to mothers who feel they messed up and still don’t know what the right thing would have been, to mothers who scream at their children and then feel guilty, to mothers who spoil their children and then feel guilty, to mothers of addicts, to mothers of children who are mentally ill, to mothers who work outside the home and wish they were home more, to stay-at-home mothers who have lost their identity, to mothers who are no longer with us physically, to mothers that drag their tired bodies out of bed to do the next right thing for their child, day after day after day, for ALL mothers…mothers who are joyous today and mothers who suffer today, and especially to MY mother, who loves me still with every beat of her heart.
There is no curriculum for being a mother. It is personal, between mother and child. Motherhood is sacred and tough and the biggest honor in the world. It is joyful and sorrowful and never carefree. If we allow it, our children can be our best teachers. They mirror what needs to be healed within us. They are not our trophies. They are our blessings, masterpieces to be discovered….together. I have been and continue to be taught well by the four amazing humans that carved out motherhood for me: John, Katie, Kevin and Sarah.
If you are a mother, send yourself some loving kindness today….and know I have already sent some your way.
Happy Mother’s Day!
In any given day, I experience the highs and lows of being a mother of four children. The lows come in the form of heartache, worry and fear and the highs are felt in the happiness I feel as I witness my kids experience the joys of life. The highs are also generated from just appreciating them exactly as they are. I know when I am worrying about them, and I do from time to time, I am not loving them. Worry and Love cannot exist in the same space at the same time. When I am worrying, I am not trusting in their journey. I am not giving them the benefit of the doubt. I want to fix them. But they are not broken and I know that. Deep inside, I know that. My higher self knows that. My gut knows that. However, I am not always seeing the world from this wise, elevated place. When the lens I see my children with is clouded by fear, my thoughts go to the worst case scenario. I become critical of them and myself. But, here is the good news! Through my mindfulness practice, I can stop myself….stop the runaway train of doom-and-gloom thoughts, stop myself before I open my big fat mouth and say something I don’t want to say, stop myself before I start lecturing, nagging, and projecting. Sometimes, I can stop myself. And sometimes, I am aware I should stop myself, but I don’t. I am a work in progress, after all. And so is every other parent. We are never going to arrive at some high place where we wipe the dust off and say, “We’re done, now THAT was easy.” Hell, no! This parenting thing is damn hard, and amazingly wonderful, and pushes us to become the best selves we can be. And even when we are doing our best, we are going to question ourselves if we could have done better. And that is our cue to be kind to ourselves, to be our own best friend, to give ourselves a freaking break. And that process of leaning into our own anguish with kindness is what builds our resilience to wake up the next morning and drag our tired butt out of bed and do it again. My intention today is to stay neutral about any outcomes for my kids. Hope and fear both exist in the future and are attached to a certain outcome. “I hope my kid gets into a top college” is just the inverse of “I am afraid that my kid won’t get into a top college”. Instead, we can stay where our feet are and empower our kids to do the same. In the present moment, our best selves have the opportunity to emerge. There is such freedom in focusing on the present moment and doing our best work and letting go of any attachment to a certain outcome. Today, I salute all my fellow parents in your quest to be your best self. I wish you less worry and more joy and freedom. And so that I practice what I teach, I wish the same for myself!